September 2018

Victim abused by Belfast businessman John Rossi speaks out in the hope of helping others

A victim of unrepentant paedophile John Rossi, jailed this week for 18 counts of sexual abuse, has said she was failed by police and social services.

Suzanne Connolly was just 14-years-old when she first told the RUC that her adoptive father, well known Belfast businessman John Rossi, had repeatedly raped and abused her.

Ms Connolly was one of six children adopted by the Rossi family, who owned an ice cream and chip shop in north Belfast – which has since changed ownership – and lived in a large home in the Malone Road area of Belfast.

Now 47, Ms Connolly a law graduate who lives in Dublin and has worked a journalist for a number of leading publications, said she was “considering her options” as to whether to further pursue police and social services for failing to prosecute her abuser more than 30-years-ago when she first reported it.

On Wednesday Mr Justice Kerr said it was “extremely hard to understand why no action was taken” in 1987 after Rossi admitted in front of a social worker of abusing Ms Connolly

Despite her young age when the abuse took place, Rossi continued to blame his victim, describing her a “manipulative” and “sexually aware”.

He was handed a five-year sentence on Wednesday. He will be released after serving half of that.

The now 80-year -old had sexually abused Ms Connolly from 1982 to 1985, when she was aged 11 to 14, with the incidents taking place in the family home in south Belfast, at a holiday home in Donegal and in the family car.

The defendant’s behaviour was described by Crown barrister Kieran Murphy as “paedophilic child abuse within a family setting”. The senior QC said the offending occurred “on an almost daily basis”, with the victim later given “rewards for sexual favours.”

Ms Connolly was sent by her adoptive parents to a children’s home and in July 1985 she confided to a member of staff and later made a police statement.

In August 1987, she made a further statement to the RUC, but again Rossi escaped charge, despite having by now made admissions to a social worker.

In 2016 the case was again reviewed by the PPS and Rossi was finally charged. In June 2018 he pleaded guilty to 18 counts of indecent assault, however, he has shown no remorse and continues to blame his victim.

Speaking to the Irish News, Ms Connolly – who has waived her right to anonymity – said she was “repeatedly failed” by a system which does not “favour the victim”.

“The current judicial system for dealing with sex abuse is a degrading process which fails the most vulnerable, it’s a disgrace.

“My attacker has shown no remorse, two and a half years in prison , which is what he will serve, for the repeated, prolonged, paedophilic abuse of a child is not justice, no sane person could consider it justice.

“My abuse was about power, the imbalance of power and a sense of entitlement to my body, the patriarchal nature of the society we live in means he was believed, I was not.

“As with all of these cases it becomes a case of ‘he said, she said’ and no one ever believes what she said.

“I got a conviction because of his guilty plea, many people do not, it was late coming but I’ve spoken out to hopefully give hope to others”.

And Ms Connolly added: “If anyone is reading this who has been a victim of abuse, please go and get help, speak to someone, it may not feel like it now but you can come through it”.

The current owners of Rossi’s on Atlantic Avenue in north Belfast have no connection to the Rossi family.